MAKING [IN] DALLAS: VOLUME 3

Volume III: JOSH REAMES BRINGS TRIPPER TO CIRCUIT 12

Located in the Dallas Design District, Circuit 12 is run by husband and wife team Dustin & Gina Orlando. The Orlando’s sharp and ever searching eye brings a national and international freshness to a sweltering  arts community that’s thirsty for a new flavor. What sets Circuit 12 apart is what could be thought of as the “cult of color” that the gallery presents.  The space offers a crisp, brash and theatrical flair to a community that, at times, treads lightly. The gallery extends invitations to curators for their Regional Quarterly series that opens the space to experimental exercises from Texas based artists, exposing work that might not otherwise make it to Dallas. For their current show, Circuit 12 mounted Tripper, a solo show from Chicago based artist Josh Reames. The paintings in Tripper flicker light and are full of an absent neon glow that references your local corner stores cheap beer signage. Unlike the trap of a promised R&R scenario that those signs offer, Reames’ work never takes a break. It’s in constant motion and only interrupted by abrupt, painfully ordinary images. In their blatant dumbness the works beg to be dismissed as trite, formulaic approaches to painting. But Reames’ masterful sense of space and line pull these out of the naïve conversation. After recognizing their formal power, the paintings reminded me how Sean Penn’s understanding of his craft allowed for Spicoli to exist. Reames, like Spicoli challenging the oncoming wave, surfs abstraction; “Surfing's not a sport, it's a way of life, it's no hobby. It's a way of looking at that wave and saying, ‘Hey bud, let's party!’" Indeed. Arthur Peña, Dallas Contributor

Josh Reames | Bad Trip, acrylic on canvas, 36"x40", 2013

Arthur Peña: Can we start by talking about the idea and power of the “image”?

Josh Reames: We live with the internet so images are everywhere, all the time. They consume our attention, yet individually very few images command our attention span. It's a weird time to be an artist, 90% of people who see your work will see it as an image on the internet - what does that mean? I don't know..  As a painter I'm already dealing with making images. Sometimes it's a bit of a bummer that most people won’t get to see the surfaces. Or, maybe that's good, a bit of a reward for going to see it in person. I can't tell you how many times I've liked someone's work online and then have been disappointed with it in person, bad surfaces/paint handling/etc.; my goal is always to make it even better up close, in the real world.

Josh Reames | Lower-case x, acrylic on canvas, 36"x40", 2013

AP: The way I'm thinking of “image” in your work has to do with a sense of speed. Your work and the mark making that builds the paintings read fast. The images in the work walk a tight rope of throw away marks and caressed execution. I'll be clever here and say they walk a “trope”.

JR: Two things: First, I'm dealing with/in abstraction, and there are two kinds of abstraction that I think have any sort of traction right now. One is a kind of self-referential, self-reflexive, and historically aware type that doesn't "abstract" anything, the reference is in the material, the history and the artist's presence - you see this with painters like Patrick Brennan or Lauren Luloff. The other type, which I am interested in, uses recognizable imagery or images or references but pushes it into the language of abstraction. 

Josh Reames | Over There, acrylic on canvas, 36"x40", 2013

Second, yes, totally, there is a fast pace to the work both in the read and the production of them. The images or text that I use always have multiple meanings, that can either be applied literally to a real world context or used in an art context. But I never pick images that are too heavy handed; I have to keep it kind of dumb. Almost all of the images I use come to me pretty quickly, from random image searches, cell phone pics in gas stations, or little quips I read in sci-fi books. In the end, abstraction is a trope; it has to be treated as such. But then again, so is pretty much everything (thanks, internet).

AP: It sounds like your tumultuous relationship with technology fuels your paintings. Or am I just wrong?

Josh Reames | Mirage a Trois, oil and acrylic on canvas, 36"x40", 2013

JR: Nope, I'm not opposed to technology, but it has changed the way art is consumed, and that’s something that has to be taken into consideration. I'm a huge believer in relativism, and I think the Internet is a kind of ever-changing exercise in relativity - so if anything, the net has been an amazing tool for idea generation and progression with my work. 

AP: For Tripper you’re making sunglasses with your name printed on the sides. They look like frat dude glasses.

Installation with blinds & sunglasses

JR: They're more like hangover glasses (think ZZ Top); I suppose frat dudes would probably require those. I think I've found my target clientele!

AP: Where does the hangover come from? Your paintings suggest somewhere tropical.

L to R: Over There, Bad Trip, #, Open Invitation

JR: Yeah, probably so. But I'm more in to them as cheap, ubiquitous objects. 

AP: Does this idea of "cheap, ubiquitous objects" have any bearings in relation to the work and the show?

JR: Well, the glasses are going to be a part of this show, so that's a direct connection. But indirectly, a lot of the imagery I am using relate to this idea. I just finished up a painting that includes emoji, that weird (and awesome) iPhone text language. Other than that, there are hands, cacti, skeletons, tropical leaves, house plants, faux drippy-brushstrokes, "abstraction", smiley faces, and etc. Essentially, I'm throwing a bunch of dumb (non-pejorative) symbols into the canvas frame and composing them together. Isn't that what painting is? The symbols are all open ended, often containing multiple meanings and have a fucked-up pop quality to them. It's non-pretentious and completely recognizable.

AP: This may be an obvious one, depending on which side you are on, but are you saying that painting is simply a formal exercise within a frame that utilizes visual tropes (or "dumb symbols") as a language? No room for romanticism.

Josh Reames | Houseplant, oil and acrylic on canvas, 36"x40", 2013

JR: I think there's room for romanticism, but it's been turned into a trope, and I'm suspect of affected romanticism. I typically air on the side of realism, so I'm saying painting is literally a utilization of formal tropes, organized within a frame. That's pretty broad though, there's a lot of wiggle-room in there!

AP: Since your work pulls from a common language within painting, this implies that it could also pull from specific artists. Upon first glance Chris Wool comes to mind but given your use of layering and technology, Oehlen’s computer paintings from the 90’s seem to be at play as well.

JR: Yeah, I love both of those guys. The Wool connection is more formal with a lot of my background layers; the black spray, wiping/smearing away the paint. But I am way more in to Oehlen as an artist, the guy has done everything! The computer paintings are amazing, they're so funny, but austere at the same time - and not to mention really impressive. I love his attitude, both him and Kippenberger with their love for stupidity and absurdity, filtered through painting and music.

Installation with soft serve ice cream machine

AP: Did you make any music to go with Tripper?

JR: I've been thinking about making a soundtrack for the opening. Some good psych rock; White Rainbow, Neotropic, Excepter, Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips, maybe some Gonjasufi or Flying Lotus. It's pretty much just what I listen to anyways.

AP: I didn’t want to go there from the start, but since you said it first, is there some sense of psychedelia embedded in the work or your process?

Josh Reames | Science Surplus, acrylic on canvas, 36"x40”, 2012

JR: In a way, yes. It all goes back to the idea of escapism. The vacation is a type of escapism, as is painting and eating mushrooms.

AP: Now this makes perfect sense in relation to the sunglasses!

JR: Ha! Yeah, I suppose so.

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Josh Reames has shown extensively throughout Chicago including his 2013 solo show “AND” at the Union League Club. Reames has participated in numerous group shows in New York and Texas and is anticipating his 2015 solo show at Annarumma Gallery in Naples, Italy. Reames received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and attended the Ox-bow fall residency in 2012. Reames currently lives and works in Chicago, IL.

Arthur Peña is a painter and contributing writer to Arts & Culture TX, New American Paintings and ART HAPS. His work was exhibited in “Boom Town” at the Dallas Museum of Art this past summer and is currently participating in the 2013 Texas Biennial at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum in San Antonio. His new experimental art space WARE:WOLF:HAUS opens this month in West Dallas. Peña currently teaches at the University of North Texas and Mountain View College. Peña currently lives and works in Dallas, TX.